The Be Big Project

I’m embarking on a new project with myself. It’s a free-flowing, open-ended journey of exploring the boundaries of my personal bodily acceptance.

It’s one thing to say, “I love my body,” and it’s another to truly dive into finding out just how big that love can be.

It’s one thing to have body acceptance, and it’s another to be passionate about my body.

It’s one thing to be myself, and it’s another to really let that self shine as brightly as possible.

It’s one thing to know that I’m a fat person, but it’s another to actually claim the space that I take up.

The literal taking up of space is the first thing I’ve been thinking about.

When I flew to Iowa for Thanksgiving, I noticed that my body was very tense during the flight as I tried to take up as little space in my seat as possible. Half of my body started to cramp, too, because I was slightly leaned away from the person sitting next to me.

There’s a lot of pressure on fat people to take up less space, and airplanes are one of the very public battlegrounds for that.

But, my body is the size that it is, and I simply must take up as much space as I do. None of that tension and stress actually made me any smaller. All it did was cause me pain.

So here’s what I did. Right in front of me was the tray table, which had a little lock right in the middle of it. That little lock was about at my eye height, and it was right in the center of the space designated for me. So I lined my nose up with that lock, squared my shoulders and my butt in my seat, planted my feet solidly on the ground, and then relaxed. Breathed. And really relaxed.

It’s kind of amazing how difficult this was. At first, every few minutes I’d look back at the lock and see that I was listing to the side again, subconsciously trying to put more space between me and the person next to me. Eventually I got better at holding my space, and the relaxation in my body was so worth it.

In the weeks since that trip, I’ve been paying attention to stress and my body. Whenever I am feeling emotionally out of sorts or under any kind of stress, I also find that my body is tightened up, hunched over and just generally constricted. If I take even just a few seconds to spread my arms out, roll my back around, kick my legs, wiggle my hips, I find that I’m almost immediately in a better mood.

I’m sure that many people find themselves tightening their bodies when under stress, but as a fat person I have the extra culturally induced baggage about being smaller and taking up less space. I have never been encouraged to actually embody my own body, to be my own size, to show off my own shape. I find that it feels extraordinary to stretch my body out and try to be big. As big as I am.

I put little notes around my living space that say, “Be Big!” to remind me to do this physical task of stretching out stress.

When I went to think of a name for the journey of expansion I want to take, I found that the phrase of this very first task already captures the feel of the whole project I have in mind. Each small task along the way is just a stepping stone to the larger goal of spreading out, stepping up, taking up room emotionally and physically. I’ll keep you updated as I go, and I hope you’ll join in with me.

It’s time.

Be Big!